BETHALO, Ill. (ABP) — A Southern Baptist and Illinois Baptist leader is scheduled to appear in court in February on a charge that he solicited a prostitute in a carwash parking lot.
Charles West, former president of the Illinois Baptist State Association and former secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference, was arrested Nov. 18 by police in Alton, an Illinois suburb north of St. Louis. West, pastor of First Baptist in nearby Bethalto, Ill., for 26 years, allegedly offered to pay $20 to an undercover officer to perform oral sex.
Local and state law enforcement officers had been involved in a crackdown on prostitution in that area, described as one of the city's prostitution hot spots.
West, who served as Pastors' Conference secretary in 2002, was elected Illinois Baptist State Association president in 1989 and 1990. He also was vice chairman of the search committee that recently recommended Wendell Lang as IBSA executive director, and he was completing his second term on the IBSA's board of directors.
Church members at First Baptist of Bethalto accepted West's resignation Dec. 3, two weeks after his arrest. They approved a three-month severance package and agreed to pay for counseling for West and his family, Associate Pastor Larry Rhodes said.
West did not respond to a phone call for comment. His attorney, Ben Allen of Alton, was not available. West's court appearance is set for Feb. 6.
“I view Charles as a friend, and IBSA is grieved along with First Baptist of Bethalto and the West family,” said Lang, the state convention's executive director. “We're praying for and wanting to be a part of the healing process for everyone involved.”
Seven weeks after his arrest, West had not submitted a letter of resignation to IBSA from the board of directors, and Lang said the state convention had not requested one. Lang said he had spoken with West, and the pastor was not expected to finish his IBSA responsibilities. “I've seen cases where guys never formally resigned. They just don't come any more,” Lang said.
Two days later, Lang called to say he had talked to West, who agreed to submit a letter of resignation. “He is not going to be on the board.”
West's arrest follows last year's sentencing of another Illinois Baptist leader and pastor for criminal sexual assault. Les Mason, vice chairman of the Baptist convention's constitution and bylaws committee, was sentenced to seven years for two counts of criminal sexual assault involving a teenage girl.